Water heaters are supposed to be fairly silent, but some water heaters can make a lot of noise. Popping, crackling and banging noises are a fairly common problem in water heaters, especially in older appliances. This is especially true of water heaters in areas that have hard water, which is a common problem in San Diego. If your water heater is inexplicably noisy and you'd like to fix that, a few easy DIY steps can help.


The likely cause for popping noises in your water heater is sediment and scale buildup inside the tank. As your water heater gets used, tiny pieces of sediment and hard water scale can collect in the bottom of your water heater.
This sediment can form a thin layer of dirt and grit on the bottom of the tank. Over time, this layer of sediment can block the heating the elements, causing the tank to work extra hard just to do its job. Boiling water on the bottom of the tank can cause the sediment in the tank to roil around, resulting in the popping noises you hear.


If your hot water heater makes popping and crackling noises, the best way to fix the problem is to drain the sediment from the bottom of the tank. This is a relatively simple procedure that can be done on a regular basis.

  1. Turn off the power to the water heater. Electric water heaters may have a breaker or a button or switch. Gas water heaters can sometimes be turned off by switching the setting to "pilot." If you can't find a switch to turn off your heater, check the owner's manual.
  2. Close the cold water valve that feeds water into the tank. The pipe and valve that fills the tank can be found on top of the water heater. To shut off the water, twist the valve into the off position.
  3. Thread a hose onto the spigot on the bottom of the tank. Run the hose to a drain outside your home.
  4. Turn on the hot water in a sink or bathtub in your home. This will prevent a vacuum from forming in your pipes.
  5. Open the spigot in the bottom of the water heater. When you do this, the water will drain from the tank. Watch the water as it exits the tank. You should see that the water is dirty and full of sediment. When the water runs clear, this means the tank has been sufficiently drained.

Once the tank is drained, close the spigot and then turn off the hot water valve in the sink or bathtub in your home. Open the cold water valve that feeds the tank with water, then restore power to the hot water tank.
Don't forget that the water in your water heater will be very hot. Touching the water at any point in the sediment draining process could result in burns. Wear thick waterproof gloves to help protect your hands while draining the tank.


Draining your water heater of sediment on an annual basis is a good way to prevent the noises from returning in the future. Mark your calendar to remind yourself to drain the water heater once each year.
To solve the problem more permanently, have a water softener installed in your home. Getting a water softener can help ensure that sediment will not be a problem in your hot water tank, and it will make draining the tank less of a necessity. For more information, talk to a reputable plumber in your area.